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Breast Cancer Cells Switch Off Interfereon Production To Dodge The Immune Response

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Breast Cancer Cells

Researchers in Australia have now found the mechanism by which breast tumors manage to metastasize without being attacked by the immune system. It seems that cancer cells block the production of interferon, and thus the immune response. Interferon is a protein that is released when the body comes into contact with bacteria, viruses, parasites, tumoral cells and so on. This protein serves as a trigger for the immune response to protect the body from foreign cells.

The study, published in Nature Medicine, found that cancer cells are able to inhibit IRF7 gene responsible for production of interferon . Once blocked the production of interferon, cancer cells can metastasize easily in bone marrow. To reach these conclusions, researchers have studied biopsies taken from mice with breast cancer. To check the potential of this discovery, researchers have thought at two methods. One of them was to administer interferon to mice, and the result was positive. A second attempt was to put the gene back into cells in place so that it can not be blocked by cancer cells. Although both trials were successful (cancer did not metastasize) researchers believe that  more tests are needed in order to create a new therapy against metastatic cancer.

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Breast Cancer Cells

Researchers felt the importance of interferon long time ago. Therefore,  interferon therapy is used in several diseases such as viral hepatitis, with antiviral drugs, autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis), etc.. Also, interferon therapy is used in several cancers, especially hematological cancers (leukemias, lymphomas). Melanomas (skin cancers) also benefit from treatment with interferon. Breast cancer derives from mammary tissue and is one of the most common cancers in women. It can affect men, but rarely, and when it occurs in men is associated with a much worse prognosis. Prognosis in women depends very much on the type of cancer and cancer stage. If found early, in the absence of metastases ( bone, lung, liver, brain), cancer can be cured. The most common symptom of breast cancer is the appearance of  a lump in the breast. The nodule is poorly defined, firm, adheres to the deep tissue and skin surface may appear orange peel. Moreover, another visible sign is the inverted nipple. General signs of cancer may also be present, consisting of weight loss without any aparent cause, anorexia, asthenia. The current treatment of breast cancer relies on surgery (mastectomy, lumpectomy, quadrantectomy), hormone blocking therapy (cancers that have estrogen receptors), chemotherapy, immunotherapy (monoclonal antibodies, transtuzumab, ) and radiotherapy.